Sunday, Jan. 5
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
1:05pm ET/10:05am PT, FOX
A great way to get the NFC side of the playoffs started.
Minnesota is a very balanced team with talent pretty much everywhere. Obviously, QB Kirk Cousins has a lot to prove, but he’s got support across the offense as well as on the defensive side where the Vikings have been stout for the last five years or so.
New Orleans, as always, has a fantastic offense. QB Drew Brees is still dealing and he, like Cousins, has the benefit of plenty of talented receiving options as well as a dynamic run game to boost things. The defense is much improved since the Rob Ryan years under Dennis Allen. With the addition of CB Janoris Jenkins, they have the makings of a roster primed to make a run.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
4:40pm ET/1:40pm PT, NBC
Well, here’s your playoff rules game. The Seahawks with 11 wins are on the road against a team that barely eked out a winning record down the stretch.
The Seahawks have improved things on offense though the offensive line remains unreliable and the running back depth chart has been decimated by injury forcing the Seahawks to turn back the clock with RB Marshawn Lynch. The real issue has been the defense which, since the Seahawks stifled these Eagles in Week 12, has looked very suspect.
The Eagles on the other hand are riding a four-game win streak into the playoffs and the #4 seed. I’m not sure what they’re “good” at, but they’re not necessarily “bad” anywhere. Like Minnesota, they’re just well-balanced. There’s a good chance that home field advantage plays a huge factor here.
Saturday, Jan. 4
Buffalo Bills (10-6) at Houston Texans (10-6)
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
4:35pm ET/1:35pm PT, ESPN/ABC
Fascinating game to kick things off.
The Bills have one of the NFL’s best defenses this year allowing just 16.2 points per game, the second-best rate in the league. The question is whether they can hold up today and get enough support from the offense and second-year QB Josh Allen.
Houston won the NFC South with just 10 wins and an incongruous 10 wins at that. A one-point win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. A seven-point win over the Los Angeles Chargers. A three-point squeaker over the Oakland Raiders. Three-point wins down the stretch over the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Texans lived by the skin of their teeth in 2019 and came out on the better side of things just enough to get home field advantage today. WR Will Fuller will likely yet again be unavailable, so WR DeAndre Hopkins is going to have to make sure he’s playing up to billing for QB DeShaun Watson.
Tennessee Titans (9-7) at New England Patriots (12-4)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
8:15pm ET/5:15pm PT, CBS
And today, the nation becomes Titans fans.
Tennessee is tasked with heading into Boston and dealing with the Evil Empire, and it’s going to be a tough task to complete. The offensive roster is solid with a plus offensive line, 2019 rushing leader RB Derrick Henry and potential offensive rookie of the year WR A.J. Brown. The issue, of course, is the quarterback position where the Titans played out a mid-season switch from QB Marcus Mariota to QB Ryan Tannehill. The switch worked out well in the win-loss record thanks largely to Tannehill’s decision making. He’ll need to be on point again today to help make up for a porous defense.
And then, there’s the Patriots with perhaps the best defense ever assembled under Head Coach Bill Belichick but also with QB Tom Brady putting in his worst season in more than a decade. You don’t ever bet against Belichick or Touchdown Tom...but if you were going to, this year feels opportune especially with the Pats losing three out of five down the stretch.